A genetic study of Icelandic natives found a genetic variation in 80 people similar to a variation found mostly in Native Americans. The genetic code was traced back to four women who lived around 1700. But the history of Iceland leads experts to believe the gene must’ve entered the population hundreds of years earlier. The simplest answer so far that fits the facts is that some Viking brought back a Native American wife from North America, who then bore the first Viking-American child in Iceland.
“We know that Vikings sailed to the Americas,” said Agnar Helgason of deCODE Genetics and the University of Iceland, who co-wrote the study with his student Sigrídur Ebenesersdóttir and colleagues. “So all you have to do is assume … that they met some people and ended up taking at least one female back with them.
“Although it’s maybe interesting and surprising, it’s not all that incredible,” Helgason added. “The alternative explanations to me are less likely”—for example the idea that the genetic trait might exist independently, undiscovered, in a few Europeans.
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(Image credit: Robert Harding Picture Library, Alamy)